Winter tornado lands in Cortland

Photo special to the Tribune Chronicle / Aaron Chine The funnel of a confirmed tornado can be seen above the trees at Mosquito Lake State Park in this photo taken by Warren artist Aaron Chine, who was fishing Tuesday morning when the tornado made its way through the Cortland area. The National Weather Service categorized it as an EF-1 storm.

A slideshow of photos can be seen here.

CORTLAND — Emily Kwiecinski had just walked back into her house on Everett Hull Road when she said she heard the winds outside picking up.

A moment later, when Kwiecinski looked out the home’s front picture window, she said she saw a part of a large tree flying across the front yard. Litter and debris also was in the air.

It was then she said she yelled for everyone in the house to get into the basement.

“I’m from Simi Valley, Calif., I’ve never seen a tornado,” she said. “I’ve experienced earthquakes, but not a tornado.

Kwiecinski said she and most other members of her extended family went to the basement to ride out the storm.

Randy Kellerman, 51, 1118 Everett Hull Road, said he had just stepped into the shower when he heard his cousin, Kwiecinski, yelling about the high winds. He said he looked out the bathroom’s window as a tree was being knocked down. He stayed in the bathroom’s shower.

“It’s true that the winds sound like a freight train passing by,” Grant Kellerman said.

The tornado hit the ground about 10:25 a.m. Tuesday in northwest Champion Township and it traveled through Cortland, according to Paul Wetzl, meteorologist with Tribune Chronicle news partner WKBN 27.

The EF-1 tornado was described as 75 yards wide with wind speeds of between 95 and 100 mph, Wetzel said, adding it traveled about 4.5 miles from Champion into Cortland.

Brody Campbell, 43, 1212 Everett Hull Road, said he was working on his laptop in the four-bedroom farmhouse his family has lived in for about a year.

When he looked out the house’s rear side window, Campbell said the basketball hoop at the end of the driveway was knocked over. Several large trees on a grassy area on the other side of the driveway already were bowing, he described.

Campbell said he quickly moved from his office to the basement, because he feared large trees on the property could fall toward the house.

“The rains were blowing sideways,” Campbell said.

After a few moments, the sounds of the winds eased and then died down, he said.

Campbell said it was then he ventured out of the house and noticed the high winds had severed several trees in half and pulled others out of the ground from the root level.

Electric power lines and telephone poles also were knocked down, both from the high winds and the weight of dozens of trees that fell across the lines, which now were dragging along the ground.

Campbell’s home, along with several others along Everett Hull and Hoagland Blackstub roads, lost power.

Penni Rohrabaugh, the owner of Campbell’s home, already had reached out to her insurance company. She said she wanted the level of damage noted, so work could begin on needed repairs on the property as soon as power was restored.

“I’m just happy no one was hurt,” she said.

Dave Miller, 4086 Hoagland Blackstub Road, said he was watching television when he heard the wind outside the window, which made the portable air conditioner in the window lift off the sill. Miller then said he heard a crash and the power went out in the house.

The Marine Corps veteran said he ran outside to look toward the Bazetta Christian Church, 4131 Hoagland Blackstub Road, where his granddaughter attends daycare.

“That’s what I care about the most,” Miller said. “I worried the limbs from the largest trees in my yard could have fallen. If they did, they would have crushed the house.”

Bazetta fire Chief Dennis Lewis said his department worked to respond to every call received during and after the tornado, including one for a missing kayaker who Lewis said later made contact with family members.

Firefighters and emergency workers traveled from Everett Hull Road, across Durst Clagg Road and North Park Avenue into Cortland.

Lewis said members of his department responded to calls from numerous residents who experienced damage to garages and their homes. Bazetta Township Road Department’s storage shed, located in the Hillside Cemetery off West Main Street in Cortland, was destroyed.

The cemetery’s chapel had some roof damage, and numerous grave stones were knocked over by the high winds while others were damaged by fallen trees.

Lewis said there were no injuries or loss of life due to the tornado.